Levels of Paint Correction

Levels of Paint Correction

What is a Paint Correction

Paint correction is a service performed by auto detailing shops to remove imperfections in the paint. For example, a paint correction would try to fix swirls, scratches, water spots, etching, and many other defects. It is a labor-intensive process with many steps that lead can lead to near perfect paint. A paint correction is often a required first step before a car is able to be protected by a ceramic coating. Below we will take a deeper look at paint correction benefits, how to determine if your car needs a paint correction, and paint correction cost.

Paint Correction Benefits

The overall benefit of a paint correction is to restore the paint, often to the best condition possible. Here’s a breakdown of some of the main paint correction benefits.

  • Reduced spiderwebbing
  • Leveled paint
  • Reduced paint orange peel
  • Improved clarity
  • Added color depth
  • Water spot removal
  • Etching removal

Paint Correction Process

Every detail shop will have a slightly different approach to paint correction. In general, the process will usually follow the steps below. Be aware you want to use the least amount of wet sanding and compounding as possible to achieve your paint goals as there is a limited amount of paint and clear coat on your vehicle that you can cut into. A good deatiler with work you to balance the longevity of the paint along with your correction goals.

  1. Inspection & consultation – In this step, a detailer will inspect the vehicle and talk to the owner about their goals with the paint correction and set proper expectations. The level of paint correction needed will vary for each car depending on current paint condition, budget, and desired outcome.
  2. Two-bucket wash – Most paint corrections will start with a detail wash or two-bucket wash. This is a thorough wash that will help the detailer get a better idea of the paint’s condition and prepare the car for the decontamination stage.
  3. Decontamination – At a minimum, this step usually involves clay barring the car to remove stubborn surface contaminants. It is also common and we recommend iron removal during the decontamination phase. The goal is to remove as many rough, gritty contaminants as possible so that they are not ground into the paint during the later steps (compounding and polishing). The clay barring is usually done by spraying a lubricant on the vehicle and then rubbing a clay bar across the paint.
  4. Wet sanding (if needed) – Many cars will not need this step. Wet sanding is used to remove heavy imperfections or level paint. It is only performed on specific areas that need it. For example, heavy scratches, orange peel paint, or spots that require paint leveling are candidates for wet sanding. The process involves using lubricated automotive sandpaper to remove some of the clear coat imperfections which are later buffed and polished.
  5. Compounding (if needed) – Compounding is pretty common in a paint correction and more vehicles will need it than wet sanding. The amount of clear coat left on the paint and the depth or severity of the imperfections will be taken into account to determine if compounding is needed. Compounding can be thought of as a much gentler version of wet sanding. Instead of sandpaper, an abrasive compound is used with an electric buffer/polisher. There are many compounds with different levels of abrasiveness that can be used depending on the state of the paint.
  6. Polishing – The polishing step is used to bring out the high gloss and shine of the paint. This is used to remove light swirling and fix any abrasions from the compounding stage.
  7. Sealant – The final step of the paint correction process is to seal the vehicle to protect the paint. Traditionally, this was usually done with a premium car wax. Today, a ceramic coating is often recommended as the best way to seal and protect the paint correction. Ceramic coatings provide more benefits and last much longer. You can read more about ceramic coatings here.

Does My Car Need a Paint Correction?

Determining whether or not your car needs a paint correction can be a tricky question to answer. Let’s look at a few common situations below.

Are you planning to get a ceramic coating?

If you are looking to get a ceramic coating and the vehicle isn’t brand new, you’ll probably need a paint correction. Ceramic coatings can be thought of as semi-permanent or in some cases permanent so you want to make sure your car looks its best before investing in the coating.

Does your paint have significant spiderwebbing, etching, or is starting to fade?

If your car is starting to visually deteriorate and any of the above apply it might be time to invest in a paint correction. Stopping the problem before it gets too bad and sealing the paint is a great way to restore and preserve your vehicle!

Is your car any of the following: exotic, high-end, a collector’s car, special heirloom, or a historic vehicle?

If the car is significantly more valuable than your average car (sentimental value counts too) it might be a good idea to invest in a paint correction and ceramic coating. Keeping the car in top-notch condition will help maintain the value, especially in the car collecting world where a few imperfections can drastically change the value.

Are you planning to show your car?

If you have a show car, you probably don’t need to be asking us if you need a paint correction. Chances are you already got one or will be getting one soon – show cars need to be looking perfect all the time!

Paint Correction Costs

The costs of a paint correction are directly related to the amount or level of paint correction needed. Generally we see paint correction prices ranging from $500 – $2,500. The low-end of the range would probably look like a detail wash with light polishing and a wax. The high-end of the range would typically include chemical and mechanical decontamination, wet sanding, multistage polishing, ceramic coating, and an interior detail.

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